Is Bernie Sanders Leading a “Political Revolution”?
Bernie Sanders says he’s leading a “political revolution” against the Wall Street and billionaires who have a tight grip on Washington and are getting richer and richer, while working families are struggling. This might have been believable and his candidacy worth supporting had the US been a tiny island isolated from the rest of the world minding its own business and its corporations all contained within the nation’s borders. Of course, even then, it would be naive and foolish to think that without changing the conditions that allowed the corporations to grow too big and powerful, in the first place, we wouldn’t once again end up where we’re at now. Accumulation of capital is built into capitalism and is inescapable. That’s the whole point in capitalism. The purpose of “investment” in a capitalist society is to grow the capital and as it grows, it finds more ways to grow even more. And it goes without saying that in a society where making money is the focal point and the measure of success and the means of achieving fulfillment and where everything is commoditized and can be bought, including influence, favors, resources and even friendship and respect, accumulated wealth provides the capitalist the power to accelerate his wealth accumulation, which becomes not the means to anything in particular, but the end in and of itself. Capital accumulation in capitalism is both the means and the end and takes on an obsessive character. Someone with tens of billions of dollars can never spend his money on things and services that would give him comfort or pleasure fast enough to keep it from growing; yet, he will diligently see to it that it continues to grow, at all cost, including firing workers who try to unionize or who seek a raise of 20 cents an hour. Any interruption or barrier in the growth of his profits will be cause for concern and motivation to seek new markets, cheaper labor and cheaper material or less overhead, such as taxes, environmental protection costs, workers’ safety costs, etc., which drives many companies into less developed countries, where the rate of profit is higher, and can be kept higher through political and military intervention.
You can take on giant corporations as a candidate for office, but even if you’re so principled that they can’t buy you, they’ll never run out of people whom they CAN buy to stop you, and if you manage to win the elections, against all odds, including against the obstacles thrown at you within your own corporate party, they will render you ineffective, once in office, and will seek ways to remove you. So, speaking of “political revolution” without touching the economic system that leads to the political situation we’re in now is exercise in futility and this of course is assuming that Bernie Sanders is sincere and genuinely means what he says.
But, as I said, his challenging of the big banks and their political power might still have been something to consider supporting, had the US been an isolated island with only domestic companies operating strictly within the US, instead of being a part of and leading a global empire with tentacles spread all over the world, with hundreds of military bases and an expansive global network of hired mercenaries, servile governments, secret prisons, non-governmental organizations and spy and intelligence apparatus, engaged in endless wars, regime changes, bombings, assassinations and diplomatic, political and economic coercion. To claim to want to limit the domestic power and influence of giant multibillion dollar transnational corporations without saying anything about the actions, plans and goals of their empire that’s destroying entire nations and committing mass murder and pushing the world towards destruction, not only seems naive, but also smells of disingenuousness. It’s hard to believe that the connection between the domestic power and influence of these corporations and their international deeds and functions would be lost on a politician who has served in the government of these corporations for over 30 years, going along with almost everything that’s led us where we are.
Sanders doesn’t talk about foreign policy much, but the few things that he does say is quite revealing. He, like Obama and other servants of the empire in government and media, speaks of US troops fighting overseas as “fighting for our freedom”, “so we can be free” or “serving us” or “serving our country”, instead of the truth, which is that they fight for the same class of billionaires that he claims to want to disempower. Are we then supposed to believe him? But, he’s not just words, either. No. He puts his money where his mouth is (or shall I say the mouth of the corporations) by voting to fund empire’s wars on the poor of the world, as well as Israel’s occupation, ethnic cleansing and genocide against Palestinians. He also supports Obama’s drone attacks, the surveillance of US citizens, punishing of whistle blowers, the “war on terror” and intervention in Syria and elsewhere. He also backed the attack on Libya, as he did President Clinton’s war on Yugoslavia and others. Are we supposed to overlook all that and make ourselves believe we’re supporting a “political revolution”?
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe and support many of his domestic ideas, such as free universal healthcare for all, free education, raising the minimum wage, etc. And, unlike Hillary Clinton, who will say anything to be president, he probably does mean it when he says he wants to reform the criminal justice system that’s racist and corrupt. But, you can’t leave the war industry intact and maintain the corporate empire and its destruction of the world, including its genocide in Palestine and call it a “revolution”. That’s because domestic policies are inseparable from foreign policies.
It also seems hypocritical to try to win some concessions from multinational corporations to improve the living conditions of the American workers, while supporting the massacres and destruction committed in Middle East, Africa and Asia, that’s meant to make those same corporations bigger and their billionaire share holders richer. So, yes, we must try to win concessions from the ruling class of billionaires for working families and the poor, such as free universal healthcare, free education and higher wages, but we must not be deluded about the economic system we’re dealing with and what and who it would really take to turn things around.